Duvar English

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has visited leaders of a religious cult in Istanbul’s Fatih district, prompting criticism on social media.

During his unannounced visits late on Jan. 12, Erdoğan met with İsmailağa community’s leaders M. Emin Saraç, Hasan Efendi and Ahmed Ustaosmanoğlu.

Pictures from one of his meetings were tweeted by Muhammed Fatih Ustaosmanoğlu, a member of the Islamist cult.

The relations of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with religious cults have been a subject of debate in Turkey, especially after the July 15, 2016 attempted coup – widely believed to have been orchestrated by the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, an ally-turned-foe of the AKP and Erdoğan.

The botched coup that killed over 250 people followed years of Gülenist infiltration in state institutions. The government is currently being criticized for not distancing itself from Islamist groups and letting cults fill the gap in state institutions that opened after widespread dismissals of Gülenists.